Long Feiye had stopped a huffy Han Yunxi from retorting against Duanmu Baiye. She then assumed he was going to deal with the crown prince personally, but Long Feiye only remained silent. It was obvious he didn’t care about what Duanmu Baiye had said before, but...what about now? Duanmu Baiye was bullying Han Yunxi, but he was still being mute?
Are we supposed to sit here and take it?
As foreign guests, they had to be sure and watch their words and actions, but it seemed out for character for Long Feiye to be so tolerant.
Is it all because of Duanmu Yao? Thanks to incidents in the past, the thought had risen, unbidden, in Han Yunxi’s mind. Whatever the reason, there was no need for Long Feiye to endure Duanmu Baiye’s words this time!
The crown prince was anxiously waiting for Long Feiye’s response as well. When he didn’t speak, he grew more aggressive. “Duke of Qin, the last time you came to White City must have been seven or eight years ago, right? You’ve sent Yao Yao home a few times. Actually, my father had already settled on you as a match back then...I never expected for a mere daughter of the Han Clan to become your official consort instead.”
Duanmu Baiye had ended up thinking out loud. “It’s such a pity that Yao Yao was tricked by that Jun Yixie fellow. Now she can’t even go back to her own home. Otherwise, she’d definitely be the one to welcome you today. Perhaps the Duke of Qin could even renew your ties of marriage to her this time.”
Duanmu Baiye had had even sharper tongue than his sister! Han Yunxi’s expression had completely fallen, her hands balling into fists. Long Feiye could clearly feel her growing wrath, but only tightened his hand on hers as he kept silent. Han Yunxi had already given up any ideas of retorting because it was pointless to do so without Long Feiye speaking up as well. She lowered her head sadly in the end.
Seeing this, Duanmu Baiye grew quite gleeful and kept talking on and on. Before long, he’d already said the ‘Duke of Qin’ ten times. The entire room---nay, the entire Court of Dependencies---was absolutely silent, leaving him to prattle on as he will. Gradually, Han Yunxi lifted her head again. At first, she’d been feeling depressed, but Duanmu Baiye’s repeated parroting of ‘Duke of Qin, Duke of Qin’ began to sound like a joke without receiving a single reaction from the man in question. Long Feiye was sitting there like a master of the house, one leg crossed over the other. One of his hands gently clasped Han Yunxi’s own, while the other cradled a cup of tea. As he slowly sipped the liquid, Duanmu Baiye stood rattling off before him. But he resembled more like a lackey trying to to curry favor than a prince looking down on them.
Duanmu Baiye himself began to grow uneasy. He unconsciously rubbed his hands, but didn’t know where to put them afterwards, and ended up forming them into fists to hang by his sides in an useless effort to hide his own awkwardness. He then cleared his throat a few times before continuing where he’d left off. “Duke of Qin, is this crown prince right or what?”
Long Feiye continued to ignore him. The temple grounds were still enough to hear a needle drop on the ground. Duanmu Baiye found himself stuck and subconsciously cast a glance towards Chief Minister Lin, who was looking at him with an ignorant expression. Yet, once he met gazes with Duanmu Baiye, Chief Minister Lin quickly withdrew his eyes. This only made Duanmu Baiye feel more embarrassed and convinced that Chief Minister Lin saw him as a fool.
Since when has a proper and upright crown prince been so thoroughly ignored? Moreover, it was in the presence of another high official at court. Duanmu Baiye finally lost his temper and raged, “Long Feiye, just what do you mean by this? Why are you still putting on airs after coming to our Western Zhou?”
At those words, Long Feiye slowly let go of Han Yunxi’s hand and slammed the tea table with enough force to make the cups and teapot clatter. In a cold tone, he remarked, “Chief Minister Lin, I’ll have to trouble you to give Emperor Kang Cheng a word. Your lordship is going to put on his airs and go back!”
As soon as he finished speaking, he rose to his feet and took Han Yunxi along to leave again. Han Yunxi finally realized that Long Feiye had been inciting Duanmu Baiye’s temper on purpose. That dolt’s so stupid, it’s no wonder Chu Tianyin could run circles around him. In fact, the crown prince’s support was one of the main reasons that the Chu Clan had passed through the years in Western Zhou so smoothly.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had already vanished through the doors before Chief Minister Lin recovered his wits enough to chase after them with a shout. “Your Highness Duke of Qin, there’s been a misunderstanding! A misunderstanding!”
“Your Highness Duke of Qin, please wait! Don’t leave!”
“Your Highness Duke of Qin, please listen to the crown prince’s explanation! His Highness Crown Prince didn’t mean it that way, the crown prince was only…”
Duanmu Baiye gave a start as he finally came to his senses. Heavens, what did I just say to him?
In the past, he could say whatever he liked to Long Feiye since they were enemies, but now, the man had come of his own accord to visit their country. Moreover, his father had been looking forward to the visit. For the sake of meeting Long Feiye properly, father had spent days in closed-door meetings with his officials to discuss the matter. No matter how unwilling he was to see the man, or how much his heart ached for Yao Yao’s sake, he had to endure! There were plenty of ways to cause trouble on the sly for the duo while they were on his turf. Whatever the case, he couldn’t afford to rip into them in public, no matter how he wished to!
Duanmu Baiye wished he could box his own ears. He…
...how am I supposed to explain myself to imperial father now?!
He was screwed!
Chief Minister Lin quickly ran back, his face ashen white with fright as he said desperately, “Your Highness Crown Prince, please listen to this official’s entreaties. Hurry and go apologize, quick! If the Duke of Qin really leaves like this, it’ll be hard for both of us to explain to His Majesty.”
Duanmu Baiye was panicking like ants on a hot pan, but he still wouldn’t lower his dignity like that!
“Your Highness Crown Prince, hurry up and go. It’ll be too late once the Duke of Qin leaves the city!”
After some hesitation, Duanmu Baiye murmured, “Chief Minister Lin, do you think this crown prince can get them back if I chase after them?” With a temper like Long Feiye’s, it was impossible to change a mountain back into a molehill.
Chief Minister Lin had no more time to waste arguing with Duanmu Baiye. He promptly decided to enter the palace, where Emperor Kang Cheng was currently in a meeting with his officials. Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had arrived in the afternoon. According to custom, the Court of Dependencies would host them for the night before they met with Emperor Kang Cheng tomorrow morning. Moreover, Emperor Kang Cheng had long said that tomorrow night there would be a banquet held in the Duke of Qin’s honor.
Once Chief Minister Lin told the room what had happened instead, the entire study fell silent. After a moment, Emperor Kang Cheng exploded with rage, sweeping everything off the table. He was even too angry to speak, but only cursed, “Unfilial son! Unfilial son!”
If Western Zhou had enough power and its crown prince was of ample skill, he could allow Duanmu Baiye to make impertinent remarks even if Long Feiye made overtures to see them. But their country didn’t hold such confidence. Furthermore, they were dealing with the Duke of Qin, Long Feiye, a man feared all across Cloud Realm Continent. Forget about the losses they’d suffer and the sacrifices they’d pay---once news of this event spread, Duanmu Baiye’s idiocy would be taken as stupidity for Western Zhou’s entire imperial clan!
“Zhen wants to dispose of him! Depose him utterly!” Emperor Kang Cheng was beside himself with fury.
All of the gathered officials were panicking and nervous as well. General Chu kept his head bowed, a complicated look had surfaced in his eyes. But soon, someone quickly suggested, “Your Majesty, we should take this time to salvage the situation before the Duke of Qin leaves the city. This old official dares to suggest that you personally make an appearance to have them stay.”
Immediately, there were rejections. “We can’t, we can’t! Most definitely not! If His Majesty appears in person, it’ll only lose even more face for our Western Zhou! It has to be the crown prince who does it.”
While in the southern central regions, Long Feiye had neither proclaimed himself emperor or officially acknowledged the two territories of Tianhui’s Western Liang and Tianmo’s Tianan Countries. Instead, he had kept his title as Tianning’s Duke of Qin.
By contrast, Emperor Kang Cheng was the sovereign of an entire nation. It would go against the levels of etiquette and thus inappropriate for him to personally call back a prince of the first rank from an allied state.
“If the crown prince goes, he might only infuriate the Duke of Qin even further. Your Majesty, please think thrice on this matter!”
“If His Majesty goes, he won’t lose any face, but make the emperor seem magnanimous instead. In the humble opinion of this old official, Your Majesty can first depose the crown prince, then chase after the Duke of Qin to show your sincerity! The crown prince’s actions have 1) placed his sovereign in contempt, 2) defied the emperor’s original intentions, 3) ignored decorum and propriety, 4) decrease the dignity of our nation, and 5) caused a great disaster. He’s earn the right to be deposed!” Naturally, the speaker was from an anti-crown prince faction of the imperial court.
“Impudence! Is dethroning the crown prince a topic you can comment on so casually? Your Majesty, Official Chen’s disciple was executed on the spot by the crown prince a few days ago for forcing himself on a commoner woman. He’s simply exaggerating things to avenge personal wrongs in the name of public interest! May Your Majesty mete severe punishment upon him!” an ally of the crown prince’s Eastern Palace immediately spoke up.
Here was the true nature of political debate. Neither side would give up a golden opportunity to decry the other, and the opposing factions were dragged into yet another heated argument. Emperor Kang Cheng sat there with a long face in silence, his expression growing more awful by the minute.
As part of the crown prince’s faction, General Chu didn’t miss his chance to speak up, either. “Your Majesty, no matter how crude or rash His Highness Crown Prince might be, he shouldn’t have made impertinent remarks without reason. As this soldier sees it, perhaps the Duke of Qin goaded him into lashing out instead?”
If this was any other day, Emperor Kang Cheng might be able to accept his general’s suggestion. Although the crown prince was the same age as the Duke of Qin, his wisdom and temper were still a far cry from the man. It would be understandable if he was taken in by a plot or scheme. But now Emperor Kang Cheng was too riled up. Moreover, the arguing factions were testing his already thin patience, so he roared back, “Goaded him into it? Why would the Duke of Qin even waste his time on that? Are you planning to tell Zhen next that the Duke of Qin came to White City with the express purpose of provoking that unfilial son?”
General Chu had no words to retort, so he could only resentfully shut his mouth.
Emperor Kang Cheng kept his rationality despite his anger. He didn’t delay but rose to his feet and proclaimed, “Someone come, prepare a carriage. Zhen is leaving the palace incognito!”
Leaving the palace in disguise to chase after the Duke of Qin was another solution---one that took the middle stance between both views. It was also the best idea at the moment. Not only would Emperor Kang Cheng keep the dignity of his status as emperor, it’d also show off his good faith and sincerity. None of the officials present had dared to object. Once Emperor Kang Cheng left, General Chu hastily told Chief Minister Lin, “Hurry and make reservations at the Carefree Restaurant[1. Carefree Restaurant (陶然居) - taoran ju, in which “taoran” means “happy and carefree” while ju is “residence, house, restaurant.”] and have the crown prince accompany His Majesty there. You can tell His Majesty to invite the Duke of Qin to the place for tea and an apology.”
Duanmu Baiye was the giant tree supporting the Chu Clan. No matter what, he could not topple!
Long Feiye had barely reached Western Zhou before saying a single sentence that shook it to its foundations. No matter the outcome, the reality of this fact would leave any nation afterward wary of offending the married pair. Currently, the two of them were sitting in a carriage heading towards the capital gates. By now, Han Yunxi had understood why he’d let Duanmu Baiye prattle on---just to irritate him on purpose.
“If Duanmu Baiye falls, the Chu Clan will hate you even more,” Han Yunxi grinned brilliantly.
Long Feiye came for the express purpose of dealing with the Chu Clan this time. Today he’d showed an impressive display of force. Now he looked over at Han Yunxi and asked her, “Happy now?”
Han Yunxi gave a start at his query. It took her some time to process his meaning, but Long Feiye then added, “When Emperor Kang Cheng arrives, I’ll have him apologize to you personally.”
“This…” Han Yunxi was startled as she came to a realization. Long Feiye had calculated against Duanmu Baiye just so he could get Emperor Kang Cheng to say sorry to her!
Really, this man...